The BDS: A Steadily Growing Non-violent Struggle Against Israeli Occupation

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) grassroots movement has become a form of resistance to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands and a struggle to defend the national rights of the Palestinian people. This movement and its campaign launched in 2005 from the heart of civil action in Palestine and expanded to include a growing number of countries in the world, plays an important role today in the Palestinian and international arena. Indeed, the BDS activists have succeeded in recent years in focusing attention on the Israeli occupation violations perpetrated against the Palestinians and have mobilized large segments of international public opinion to call for boycotting, divesting and punishing Israel. Such moves were considered alarming and a strategic threat by successive Israeli governments. Moreover, the Israeli Knesset passed a law banning the entry of BDS activists into Israel and placed them on a black list.

It is well known that the BDS movement seeking boycott of Israel is not centered only in the economic sphere but also runs in all fields. In the face of popular and political pressure, Argentina – for example -canceled a friendly preparatory meeting of the 2018 World Cup in Russia which was scheduled to bring together the Argentine team and their Israeli counterpart in Jerusalem. Most recently American singer Lana Del Rey canceled her performance in Israel because of her “inability to schedule a show to her Palestinian fans equally.” Along with increasing similar sports and cultural successes here and there, the BDS is active mainly in confronting international companies that assist and support Israel in its violations of Palestinian human rights, including through contracting with its army and government, working in Jewish settlements (colonies) or involvement in the crimes of occupation and apartheid. Within years, the movement’s campaigns have succeeded in forcing large companies to withdraw their investments from Israeli projects altogether, which led to the withdrawal of a wide range of investors of their investments from Israeli companies, as well as from international companies complicit in such businesses. But a major achievement, the biggest in BDS history, came with the announcement by the HSBC Bank, the world’s seventh largest, of divesting in full from Elbit Systems, the Israeli defence electronics company known as the largest arms and civilian use equipment manufacturer. The company promotes weapons that have been used against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The movement also pledged “to continue campaigns against the Bank until it withdraws all its investments from 12 other companies that sell military equipment and technology to Israel, the most important of which is BAE Systems, as well as Caterpillar, which uses bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes and property.”

These successive achievements of the BDS movement came despite the fierce campaign led by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and its desperate attempts to whitewash the face of Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced the allocation of millions of dollars to improve Israel’s image abroad after being affected by the activities of the boycott movement. An Israeli study prepared by journalist Nathan Thrall confirmed that the boycott movement angered Israel and complicated its position, especially in the United States. He said “It has hindered the efforts of Arab states to fully break their own decades-old boycott in pursuit of increasingly overt cooperation with Israel. It has shamed the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah by denouncing its security and economic collaboration with Israel’s army and military administration.” The study added that the boycott movement “contributed to changing the environment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as it reduced the ability of Israel to benefit from regional transformations, and damaged its relationship with the Jews of the world.”

As Airbnb, a major American home rental company, cancelled its listings in Jewish colonies, US vice president Mike Pence moved to defend Israel’s position on the issue criticizing the decision saying the BDS action is wrong and “it has no place in the American free market.” But an Israeli journalist viewed the movement as a struggle against occupation and oppression. Yuli Novak wrote: “The BDS monster is one of the glorious creations of the government of Israel. By means of a propaganda machine with abundant resources and frightening messages, a legitimate and nonviolent Palestinian protest movement has been turned into an anti-Semitic plot. How were we so quick to bite the bait that serves only those who want to preserve the regime of occupation and apartheid in Israel?” She went on to say “The Israeli government doesn’t want opposition or criticism regarding the policy of occupation-, and the easiest way to prevent support for this opposition is to single out every criticism as a tentacle of the anti-Semitic monster.”  “The boycott movement”, she went on to say “represents a form of non-violent struggle by a people that is being oppressed.”

While it is true that this boycott movement is in great growth abroad, and it has made many achievements in terms of investments withdrawn from companies that support the Israeli occupation, and succeeded in preventing the sale of products of the Jewish colonies in shops worldwide, and convinced international artists to cancel concerts and other cultural activities in Israel; still the required Palestinian, Arab and Islamic support to the objectives and efforts of this BDS remains much below the level!!